Friday, October 31, 2008

The Passion of the Plumber

The Columbus Dispatch now says that the Ohio computer database lookups of "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher were more extensive than previously disclosed:

Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, disclosed today that computer inquiries on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher were not restricted to a child-support system.
. . .
"Given our understanding that Mr. Wurzelbacher had publicly indicated that he had the means to purchase a substantial business enterprise, ODJFS, consistent with past departmental practice, checked confidential databases ," she wrote.
Sharing the results of those searches with the Tanning Bed Media was just an extra service they provided. As bad as this invasion of privacy is, Jones-Kelley's explanation betrays a fundamental misconception. She seems to think that economic classes are static; that people are born into a class and stay there their entire lives. The reality is that there is a great deal of movement up and down the economic ladder.

I knew a man who grew up in poverty during the Depression, who went on to become a multi-millionaire through his construction and real-estate business. You'd never know it looking at him; he and his wife shopped at the same low-price stores as I did, wore off-the-rack clothes, and drove an old pickup truck. They kept reinvesting their profits into building more properties. And he is hardly unique.

Joe told Barack Obama that he had conversations with his employer about buying him out at some point. The way a deal like that often works is that the owner gets to retirement age without having groomed a family member to take over the business, so he sells it to an employee on a contract/loan. For years after Joe "took over", he would have been paying off his current employer out of the profits that the business earns, reinvesting his profits to improve his equity. That's why he was worried about Obama's plans to "tax the rich"; If those profits are taxed at a higher rate, countless Joes around the country will not be able to move up from employee to employer.

Perhaps Obama and his allies are unaware of this economic reality. On the other hand, they may full well know that raising tax rates decreases upward mobility, creating the very ills they pretend to oppose. I suspect that some of them do know it, and others don't. I'm not sure whether ignorance or malice is the greater indictment, but we need not concern ourselves with their motives. Their policies are destructive.
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1 comment:

  1. I find the second half of that quote chilling. Because he indicated that he had money, that was reason enough for them do launch an in-depth investigation of him? This is "consistent with past departmental practice?" If she is lying, disgusting business as usual. If this is true, how many other innocent citizens have been targeted for investigation on the basis of "publicly indicat[ing] that [they] had the means to purchase a substantial business enterprise?" Heaven help Joe, I hope he only had one samovar...


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